Kathy Lueders, who has spent 28 years at NASA, will lead the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, or HEO, it was announced on Friday (June 12, 2020). She will be the first woman ever to fill the role.
NASA’s previous chief of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, abruptly resigned from the space agency last month, citing a “mistake” he had made earlier this year, reported CNN.
CNN Business previously reported that Loverro’s departure was related to contracts that were awarded for the development of lunar landers, or vehicles that can carry astronauts to the moon’s surface, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Lueders’ appointment comes after she spent seven years leading NASA’s Commercial Crew program, a first-of-its-kind effort in which NASA asked the private sector to develop spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Lueders’ leadership of that program culminated in the historic success of SpaceX’s Demo-2 launch last month, which carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley to the space station. It marked the first time humans have traveled into orbit from US soil since NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
The Commercial Crew Program is part of the HEO, but in her new role Lueders will also oversee NASA’s Artemis program — an ambitious effort announced by the Trump administration last year to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. NASA had been working to put spaceboots on the Moon later this decade. The accelerated timeline has been widely criticized as unrealistic, given ongoing delays with the rocket NASA plans to use for the mission and the need to develop a lunar lander.
Lueders — an American engineer and business manager — was previously the program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and oversaw the return of human spaceflight capabilities to NASA.
In college Lueders studied business as an undergraduate with goals to work on Wall Street. During her senior year she wanted to switch to an engineering major. After getting married and having children she returned to college and “earned several degrees in engineering.”
Lueders earned her bachelor’s degree of Business Administration in finance from the University of New Mexico. She also has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University.
Lueders began her NASA career in 1992 in the propulsion lab at the White Sands Test Facility. As only the second woman to work at the facility, Lueders started as the depot manager of the Space Shuttle program Orbital Maneuvering System and Reaction Control Systems. She has also held several managerial positions within the International Space Station Program Office at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
CNN with Wikipedia inputs